"Helix" in Venezuela: as a luxury shopping Mall turned into a horrible prison

Once in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, one cannot miss the huge building spiraling "Helix". It's like the citadel rises above the sea of shacks and suppresses its size and ugliness. Its concrete colossus inspires fear to the residents of the capital and its guests, but it was not always so. Built a "Helix" as the biggest shopping centre in Venezuela — a symbol of prosperity and stability. It is symbolic that he is now the most terrible prison in the country, but, perhaps, in the whole South America.

Were built shopping center "Helix" in 1950-ies of the last century, when Venezuela opened up huge prospects of development. The country had discovered oil deposits and investments flowed in an endless river. The dictator Marcos pérez jiménez wanted to create his country's attractive image of a progressive country, which is waiting for the inevitable prosperity.

Since 1948, the country was ruled by military dictators, relying on the slogan "We will make progress if we are to build." And it built! "Helix" was to become not only the biggest shopping center of the continent, but the world's only place where purchases can be made without leaving the car.

In a colossal building was planned to accommodate 300 shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas, games rooms for children and more. The place for construction was chosen so that the monumental spiral was visible from any part of Caracas, and even of its suburbs.

Construction was accelerated, but it was prevented by another military coup, in 1958, Marcos pérez jiménez was overthrown, and the new masters of the country were not up to the ambitious project, which required huge expenses from the budget.

After the change of regime, the building was empty, gradually coming into disrepair in humid tropical climate. There were many different ideas on the use of the complex, but each required enormous financial injections, with dubious return on investment. Dismantling the "Helix" was even more expensive than to bring to mind, so the issue also was not raised.

Found a use for abandoned shopping Mall only three decades later. In the 80-ies of the government of Venezuela decided to translate "the Helix" the state some service. The lion's share of domestic volume when it went to the Bolivarian national intelligence service, known as SEBIN.

You would have thought that the building was equipped with a lot of dull offices with bored clerks, but it was not so. In fact, the failed shopping center into a large-scale prison for political and criminal prisoners.

Everything that happened in the walls of the building was deeply classified, but some rumors seeping out, chills the blood. In "Helix", which became an effective tool to suppress the will of the people, practiced the most terrible tortures and horrible executions, which can only come up with perverted human imagination.

Prisoners rarely left the prison, a huge prison, but if they did, tried to be as far away from the concrete spirals, dominating the Caracas not to see even its outline. Former prisoners reluctant to talk about what is happening inside prisons and always hide their real names when communicating with journalists.

With several former prisoners of the "Helix" managed to communicate the correspondent Bi-bi-si. As it turned out, the prison had never experienced a lack of "guests", but the real peak demand occurred in 2014. Mass protests shook the country for several months in the camera CABIN was delivered about 3 thousand citizens.

The detainees were brought to the dungeons of their buses. Among them were politicians, activists, students and even schoolchildren. The police and security services did not stand on ceremony and were seized in the streets protests of the town, who seemed like the right arm. One of the former guards of the prison says:

Justice in Venezuela is a rather abstract concept, therefore, detained for months waiting their turn to appear before the Tribunal without filing any charges.

When you create SEBIN planned to use the Agency to collect information necessary to ensure public security within the country and abroad. But in fact this office was engaged in protection of the dictatorship and intimidation of all whose opinion differs from the approved by the government.

The conditions of detention in the "Helix" was terrible. The building is not intended for use as a prison and the inside reconstruction was carried out. To cope with the influx of prisoners, including several dozen in a matter of weeks grew to several thousand, employees of the intelligence services were forced to improvise, turning to the camera first, the halls and rooms of the Mall, and then offices with toilets.

The boutiques were transformed into casemates in which the prisoners were given meaningful names: "Little Hell", "Aquarium", "Little tiger", "Guantanamo". The last room was used by the most notorious. It was located in a former warehouse and with dimensions of 12 to 15 meters was the place of imprisonment of not less than 50 people.

Lack of ventilation, light and sanitation, overcrowding and high humidity did the stay in "Guantanamo" a torture, is able to suppress the will of the most resistant person. Spili prisoners side by side on mattresses thrown on the concrete floor and relieving himself in a bucket and buckets that are immediately near the makeshift beds. The walls of the cell were smeared with blood and excrement and swarms of insects did not leave the prisoners alone neither day nor night.When the toilet container is full, security did not respond to the request to give the possibility to empty and people had to use plastic bottles and other containers to preserve the illusion of cleanliness in the room. As inmates were to be washed only every few weeks, in addition to their smells assailed, skin diseases and parasites.

However, even the conditions of detention in the "Helix" was not the worst. All the prisoners of political prison were regularly subjected to the most inhuman torture. Electric shocks on the genitals, hanging down his head, suffocation with plastic bags, burning with a soldering iron and an iron was in prison commonplace. Additionally in the dungeons of the flourishing of rape suffered by both women and men.

A former prisoner by the name Mantia says about the methods of interrogation in the "Helix" as follows:

Some did not survive the torture and died, then their bodies just disappear, so as to give the relatives the body of the tortured prisoner, the authorities did not dare. Also among the prisoners also were not uncommon of self-harm and suicide. The sick and injured had a chance to get to the hospital, but SABIN usually are not pampered prisoners such privileges and, most often, patients simply died.

In 2018 in the "Helix" there was a riot, after which some of the prisoners, whose guilt has not been proved, allowed to go home under his own recognizance, and the rest promised to improve conditions of detention. But these measures were only a trick aimed at the suppression of riots freed soon returned to their cells and inhuman conditions remained the same.

All requests of journalists, human rights activists and public associations, concerning political prison, the Venezuelan government answer dead silence.

Keywords: Riots | Venezuela | Torture | Regime | Repression

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